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Back-to-school tips

Nikki Van Ginkel, Clinical Director at Season’s Center for Behavioral Health gives students, parents and teachers some back-to-school tips.

August 19, 2018
Jennifer Astello - Correspondent , Estherville News

Summer flew by like a rocket ship and now the feel of Fall is in the air. Leaves are beginning to dry out, the weather is beginning to change and now pre-season football begins. You know what that means: school.

School will begin in less than a week. Parents and students are preparing, some rejoicing and some sad at the thought of beginning the school year.

How does one prepare for the school year after sleeping in all summer long and staying up late with bonfires and marshmallows?

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Nikki Van Ginkel Clinical Director at Season's Center for Behavioral Health gives advice and tips for the community.

"I work with a lot of kids," said Van Ginkel, Licensed Independent Social Worker. "My biggest tips for going back to school is to get into a back to school routine before school starts, like a week or several weeks before school starts. Kids need plenty of sleep, especially kids who have a tendency to have worries or fears about starting school or who struggle academically or with attention. Sleep is very, very important."

High-school aged kids should get at least 8 hours of sleep, toddlers at least 12 hours, then school age 10-12 hours of sleep.

Fact Box

More tips

n Make sure students of all ages are getting enough sleep.

n Allow your child to express how they feel about school

n Give positive reinforcement

n Help your child problem solve and find solutions

n Don't focus on bad behavior, try to find the meaning of it and come up with a solution

n Start a back-to-school routine before school starts

"High schoolers sometimes have basketball practice until 8 p.m. then have 4 hours of homework. They require a lot of sleep as well, but they don't always get that," said Van Ginkel. "So being as consistent as you can with high schoolers and their sleep is good. Eliminating their electronics before bed is important for those who struggle with sleep."

For parents, the thought of all the costs associated with school may be stressful. For children, some fear bullying, some may suffer from separation anxiety and for others, school maybe another added stress because home life is hard to deal with.

Van Ginkel said it is important to keep an open relationship with your children and encourage the children to express themselves.

"Have kids be able to express how they feel about school," said Van Ginkel. "So, after school asking how their day went, giving them an opportunity to express themselves. Not, how was your day, then they say, good. Ask them, what was the best thing about their day so that they can get excited and feel some positivity about their day. Also ask them, what was the worst thing about your day, or what was something that you wish could have gone better? And then help them problem-solve that, whether it was a poor grade, or they were bullied, or if they had a poor social interaction. Things like that are the best way to get information and have them express themselves, and it gives them an opportunity to problem solve for some of those stressors."

For those stay-at-home parents who are letting their children go for the first time, Van Ginkel said they should use the now free time to care for themselves, read a book or go for a walk to take your mind off the change. But also, think about all the positive changes and all the things that your children are learning.

"Parents sending their kids to school for the first time, be prepared for it to be sad, because you are letting your babies go," said Van Ginkel.

It may be sad for you and your child, but if you stay positive and occupy your mind with all the great advantages of your children being in school, you and your children will slowly adapt to the change.

Van Ginkel also shares advice for teachers and staff.

"Being aware of what's happening with their students and on-going needs of students," said Van Ginkel. "Try not to focus on, when a child has a bad behavior don't ask, what are you doing, or why did you do that, but something like, what's going on with you, or what happened to you. Try to look behind the meaning of the behavior, so hopefully it is just something like, they are not getting enough sleep. But sometimes the students can be worried about their next meal, they can be worried about their parents fighting, they may have an anxiety disorder. Our kid's lives are so complex now. There is certainly not a one size fits all way to teach and there is not one way to parent either. Try to be in tune to children's individual needs. Each child is going to be different and will need to be approached a little bit differently, just try to keep that in mind."



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